The Rise of the Revelstoke Acrobats

In the last couple of years, numbers at the Revelstoke Acrobats (RA), the local gymnastic trampoline club, have skyrocketed.

“I would say our gym is at maximum capacity,” says head coach Jill Drake. “The gym opens at 6:30 am and goes until 9:00 pm.”

Part of this growth, Drake believes, is due to word of mouth. The rest is down to a positive culture, solid and caring coaches (the club currently has three full time coaches), training programs, and the addition of thirteen teenage student coaches.

“All of my student coaches are in the competitive program; it is a prerequisite that gives them both the gym and skill knowledge they need to help coach,” explains Drake.

By employing some of her advanced students, Drake is able to better utilize the space available within the gym and add more spaces to her recreational classes. And those classes are busy.

The RA have 20 competitive athletes, 24 pre-competitive athletes, and 250 recreational students ranging from preschoolers up to grade seven.

Drake offers three spaces a week to Begbie View School (BVE), where the facility is located, to utilize as they see fit. Working with BVE is part of a symbiotic relationship the RA has cultivated with the school board that allows the club to pay reasonable rent while also benefiting the school it is within.

“At present, some students with exceptionalities use the space, and it is rewarding to see how it positively affects them,” she says.

Drake also has a BVE kindergarten group, which is, she says, always a blast to watch. “I actually saw one child there this year and gave the parents my number,” she laughs.

The Competitive Side

Acrobats Nationals athlete Ruby Ryga. Photo contributed by Sheri Zebroff.

RA competitors can partake in three different events in competition: trampoline, double mini trampoline, and tumbling (which involves performing tumbling elements like handsprings and flips down a 60 foot long stretch of mat.)

The competitive athletes in RA are thriving. Of the 20 competitive athletes, four are competing at a national level, a new holding record for the club.

“One of the neat things about trampoline is that it has a different longevity compared to artistic gymnastics,” says Drake. “The top athletes in this sport are in their 30’s. Until you are 19 years old, you’re considered a junior – you’re not making the Olympic team, though you could go to Worlds in the younger age group teams. You have to be twelve to compete nationally.”

Trampoline events get an undeserved bad rap regarding injuries, Drake notes, thanks to family trampoline park facilities, which do not utilize the same equipment or have qualified coaches. It is because of these kind of issues, the RA insurance policies have changed, which has forced Drake to stop offering drop in classes or birthday parties.

“In reality, in a true trampoline facility, injuries are few and far between,” she says. “You only do high level moves when you have the foundation skills and training, and when you are hitting high level moves, your body becomes a work of art that you have to take care of to maintain those skills.”

Training appropriately and utilizing the skills of the healthcare specialists available, such as massage and physiotherapy, are an important part of an athlete’s routine, regardless of their age. Drake is a firm believer in playing other sports and resting. “This year our competition season will be from February until June. Bodies need a break; I don’t think any kid should do twelve months a year of high level sport.”

Mentally, trampoline is a sport that requires significant bravery.

“There is a window of teaching opportunity where athletes are young enough to go for it but don’t really think about what you are asking them to do,” says Drake, “which you want to take advantage of and roll with. At the same time, there is a progression of skills they need before they can move onto the next skill. There is a point where it gets scary and a lot of kids tap out.”

At the RA, competitive athletes range from ages ten and up. The four athletes that have qualified for this year’s Nationals include Ruby Ryga (13), Summer Novakowski (14), Kayln Gale (15) and Emily Welsh(19).

“These kids, particularly Ruby and Summer, are going to try and qualify for the Interpacific Championships this October. It’s an international competition being held this year in BC. Elite teams from around the world will be going,” says Drake.

The older the athlete is, the higher the level of difficulty of moves required to place. “Because they are in the 13/14 year old category, they have the best chance, so we might as well go for it,” says Drake.

While the RA club is female dominated at the competitive levels, Drake notes that other clubs have many male competitors. In Revelstoke, they have one, Oscar Glowaki.

“I’m trying to get more involved in the higher levels,” says Drake. “Oscar is my rising star. Holy-moly is he a force.”

Sparkles are Expensive

Competitor Emily Welsh winning gold. Photo contributed by Sheri Zebroff.

With her athletes regularly starting to compete nationally and even internationally, Drake says the RA competitive program has started fundraising.

“Our existing fundraisers that all participants are involved with goes straight back to the gym. Because it is fundraised by the whole population of the gym, it’s used to keep class fees down and buy new equipment, which is very expensive,” she says.

“Last year the competitive kids did a bottle drive to help cover the cost of gymnastic suits, which are $250 each. What can I say? Sparkles are expensive.”

In addition to suits, as competitors are travelling further from home for longer periods of time and entering higher level competitions, fundraising will be used to help with travel and competition fees.

It’s exciting to see the growth of the RA, and the success the competitive athletes are having. With Drake behind the helm and the booming number of recreation acrobats in the ranks, the RA is undoubtedly going to be going strong for years to come.

*Feature image contributed by Sheri Zebroff.

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